Happy Holidays!

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Happy Holidays 2013As another year comes to a close, I have taken a moment to reflect on the last 12 months and be able to recognize with gratitude how far we have come in so short a time.  This past year has brought amazing opportunities to work on a variety of wonderful projects as well as being able to network with the best and the brightest of the Hospitality industry.  As I look into the portal of 2014, I see a bright and busy future with exciting new projects and we look forward to providing design excellence in Hospitality!

We wish you and yours a very Happy Holiday Season and Best Wishes for the New Year!

What NOT to do in Hotel Design – Tip #7

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Would you like some e-coli with your coffee?

This issue is as divided as who coffemakercame first, the chicken or the egg.  Some people feel that placing the coffee maker in the guestroom bathroom is logical because it involves using water, therefore it’s easier to just have this machine near the sink to fill and wash.  While this concept works in a kitchen environment, a bathroom is a whole other pile of……….well, you know.tumblr_llp45uY7zD1qhczcmo1_400

From a hygienic point of view, having any kind of a food product in an environment that has a higher tendency for bacteria floating around is just not a good idea.  Coffee makers oftentimes have open grills or vents for the steam which also makes them easy access openings for any floating bacteria particles to get into.  Studies have shown that airborne bacteria from flushing toilets, use of towels, clothing, as well as coughing and sneezing can land on surfaces in the bathroom on a regular basis.  While a wipe-down with detergent will kill the majority of these bacteria making the bathroom clean and sanitary, the housekeeping staff is not cleaning out the coffee makers inside and out on a daily basis to guarantee the same sanitary conditions.

Designers hate to place the coffee maker in the room, calling it an “eyesore” or carving out valuable real estate to place it on one of the few horizontal furniture surfaces.  But rather than making it an after-thought and merely sticking it in somewhere the day before opening, we need to accept the fact that guests like to brew their own coffee, many of whom own personal brewer systems at home.  To avoid any health issues, it is better design practice to place these appliances in the guestroom or foyer area rather than in the bathroom itself.  Besides, coffee tastes better without bacteria.

You may go and get your anti-bacterial now.

What NOT to do in Hotel Design – Tip #6

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It’s not easy being green, especially when you’re fake!

dustyleavesPlease know that I’m not saying your should NEVER use artificial plants in a hotel environment.  There are many beautiful and realistic artificial plant and tree products in the market that have been successfully used in hotel projects around the world.  I myself have designed and implemented several artificial plants and trees in many of my projects. 

The caveat with using artificial landscaping is that the hotel property may feel that this will not require a horticulture maintenance contract and that these plants/trees can be self-sufficient.  While not needing any trimming or watering, what they do need is cleaning on a regular basis to avoid turning them into giant dust collectors.  What’s the point of bringing the outside in when it starts to look like a lint trap? 

The whole purpose of having plants in an interior environment is to assist in cleaning and purifying the air, as well as to add a natural aesthetic touch to any space.  But when you’re creating a magnet for dust, germs, and other contaminants, it sort of defeats the original purpose.

Regular cleaning and dusting with either damp cloths or air pressure cleaners will need to be a part of the hotel maintenance schedule to avoid build-ups.  Make sure that as a designer you discuss the commitment with the hotel property before inheriting them with a 200-lb dust bunny to take care of!

What NOT to do in Hotel Design – Tip #5

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Don’t use loose throw pillows in a Hotel lobby


young woman with pillowsThis was a lesson I personally learned the hard way.  After a day of carefully placing a variety of colorful custom throw pillows specially designed for a Hotel lobby project, I returned to the office and within 7 days received a call from the property that the throw pillows had been mysteriously disappearing.  Apparently the guests checking out of the hotel felt I had placed these beautiful accessories as parting gifts for them to take as a souvenir from the hotel.  In looking at the bright side, I consoled myself by knowing my design aesthetic was being displayed in private homes all around the nation, but when it comes to the hotel reality, we were back to square one. 

Unfortunately, even though the expendable income of the average hotel guest has increased, the old hotel adage still exists – if it’s not nailed down, it will walk away!!  If you’re going to use throw pillows in a lobby, just make sure they are attached or semi-attached, making it a lot more difficult for a guest to simply “accidentally” grab one on their way out!  These are hotel accessories and not decorative “after dinner mints” for the guests to take.

The other non-spoken issue with throw pillows is the 12253447-print-of-dirty-palm-with-cartoon-germsfact that they can also become living, breathing petri dishes in the hotel lobby.  With the amount of traffic that moves through a lobby on a daily basis, people, especially the young ones, tend to grab onto these pillows, move them around, throw them on the floor, have “pillow fights”,etc.  You can be almost guaranteed that these pillows do NOT get cleaned on a regular basis which means that every time housekeeping rearranges them neatly back into their places, the germs, dust, and all other fun things that are in the pillows or on the surface have also been neatly placed for your entertainment as well!

Accessories are an integral part of “decorating” any space, and throw pillows add a touch of home and a pop of color to any space.  If you do use these decorative accents, then make sure that the fabrics used are durable, easy to clean, and made from materials that will be as “anti-microbial” as possible.  Also make sure that they are tied down somehow, either fully attached or semi-attached to avoid them becoming active members of the lobby area as much as possible. Or souvenirs.  That’s what the gift shop is for!

What NOT to do in Hotel Design – Tip #4

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Don’t use solid color carpet in heavy traffic areas

There are some designers that want to think outside the box and feel the need to change things up a bit in Hotel design.  But sometimes, the box is there for a reason.  One such popular idea is to do away with patterned carpet and instead use the more modern approach of a solid color carpet.  Why is this a bad idea? Oh, let me count the ways….

Flooring is one of the largest surface areas in any room, and when you use a solid color, it naturally draws your attention to it.  You want to use solid carpet in your home? Not a problem.dirty-270x405  In a Hotel environment, however, this can turn into a hot mess.  First, a solid color will show every piece of paper, fuzz, dust bunny, or dirt spec that falls on it.  Second, most cut pile carpets have what is called a “nap”, or a textured surface that looks different depending on how it is combed.  If you’ve ever vacuumed your carpet at home, you have noticed how the color changes depending on which direction you move the vacuum. In a hotel this is accentuated by the vacuums, the housekeeping carts, and even the guest suitcases.  Patterns in the carpet can disguise this, but with a solid carpet it is front line and center, giving a perception of messiness.

Lastly, solid colors show dirt, and there is no way to disguise it.  Between the grease from the cart or suitcase wheels and the gunk on the bottom of shoes, carpet-beforeif you put solid carpeting in any public area you may as well refer to it as a walk-off mat, because that’s what it will look like after a couple of weeks, especially the light-to-medium colors.  Patterned or print carpets tend to hide more “sins” as well as add a more aesthetic element to the floor surface, allowing the property to  have more time between carpet replacements. Make sure that the hotel guest aren’t treated to the previous guests’ left-overs with stains and marks on the carpet.

So word to the wise, if you want to be “moderne”,  express yourself with the furniture, not the carpet.  Boxes can be good.  Learn to work with the box.

What NOT to do in Hotel Design – Tip #3

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Don’t use marble countertops in bathrooms or bars

white-carrara-marble-with-wine-stainsYou don’t need Michelangelo to tell you that marble is one of nature’s most beautiful creations.  When used properly, it can add a level of luxury and sophistication to any Hotel project.  Composed primarily of Calcite, marble can be used as either a polished finish or a honed (dull) finish on both walls and floors.  But the flip side is that Calcite makes it a very porous material, which means that marble is highly susceptible to stains and acids.  This means that marble should NOT be used anywhere that needs heavy chemicals (such as bleach or ammonia) on a daily basis, like bathroom or bar counter tops.  This daily cleaning which is required by health code in these areas will literally disintegrate the marble tops.

Wine, coffee, & cranberry juice will also easily stain marble, which makes it inadvisable to use in food and beverage applications. images-3 Granite and other aggregate conglomerates are much better choices, giving the look of natural stone, but with the durability needed to stand up to use and abuse.  While one may argue that the Coliseum and the Parthenon are still standing and they’re made out of marble, I have to remind everyone that the Greeks and the Romans were not into the Hospitality business.  For the rest of the world,  we have to make sure our countertops don’t look like the Lines of Nazca after a few weeks!  Be aware of the materials you specify, and make sure you understand their limitations in the application.  Cheers!

What NOT to do in Hotel Design Tip #2

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Don’t use adjustable lamps!!

If my design existence had a bane, this would be it!!  Every time I see a spec for a wall or floor lamp that has an adjustable or a cantilever arm placed in a hotel guestroom or lounge area, I immediately know that the designer has NEVER spenlamp-brokent any time speaking with anyone from the engineering or housekeeping staff, like….EVER!  The primary rule to designing for a hotel is that if it can be easily destroyed, it will be!  Moveable parts in any piece of furniture or lighting that is used primarily by a guest are an invitation for destruction.  Moveable arms on a lamp will guarantee that the guest will always try to adjust the angle because, well, they can.

Cantilever lamps, while very stylish, broken lampare structurally unstable & can be easily tipped over if the base is not properly weighted ( a minimum of a 25 lb base is recommended). If you absolutely, positively HAVE to use an adjustable lamp because you simply CANNOT find a lighting solution without movable parts, just make sure that the joints are engineered for heavy duty abuse use, otherwise it will be a surefire guarantee that the hotel will need to replace this lamp within a few short weeks.

unwell lampIf there was one item that I saw consistently in the hotel “morgue” known as the engineering storage room, it was broken adjustable lamps.  Anything that looks like “lamp-on-a-stick” will not hold up well in a hotel environment.  Make sure that the materials specified are also good quality and have the proper metal gauge as well, oftentimes to save money some designers will specify aluminum for the lamp body and this will not hold up as well as some of the heavier gauge metals.  It is best to stick with functional lamps that will provide enough lighting in the room but that have as few adjustable pieces as possible.  The less interaction they have with the guest or housekeeping staff, the longer they’ll last!

What NOT to do in Hotel design! Tip #1

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In my years of working as a Hospitality designer from both the consultant side as well as the ownership side there are many lessons in Interior Design that I have learned, primarily what NOT to do when designing hotel interiors.  Many designers present new and innovative ideas every time a hotel design project comes around, but few of them actually take the time to learn from past mistakes or consult with the Hotel staff or ownership to see what works and doesn’t work.  This creates a repetition of common mistakes that occur over and over again in designing hospitality interiors.  Here I will share a top 10 list of things that I feel are important to avoid, and my reasons why.  While this is a generalized list and by no means the only issues, I want to be clear that these are solely my opinions and designers may take this advice or leave it.  However, these observations are based on years of having to go back into project installations and addressing these issues time and time again.  So lets begin:

It’s a fact that there are an infinite selection of supremely cool and fun fabrics in the market right now, but when it comes to headboards, designers should resist the urge and step away from the cloth!  With the variety of sticky, gooey, & greaheadboard dirtysy hair products used by the hotel guests, the fabric headboard is a sponge that will absorb these stains and will proudly display them for future guests.  This will give the automatic impression of a dirty, filthy room, decreasing guest satisfaction from the first impression.  Instead, designers should source from the variety of vinyl products and faux leather options, which are both easy to clean and are very durable as well.

Another thing to keep in mind is the hygiene maintenance and thisbedbug-1 includes the ugly truth about bed bugs.  Unfortunately with the increase in global travel and exposure to many new “critters” and bacterium, the bed bug epidemic has become an unpleasant reality.  These bugs love to burrow into fabric, especially the nooks and crannies.  By using fabric headboards it creates a more enticing atmosphere for these unwanted guests to take up residence, making it more likely to get bitten, or better yet, take them home as souvenirs!  Using a vinyl product detracts bed bugs from snuggling in, decreasing the chances of spreading or being bitten.

Anything that can be designed for a guestroom that helps maintain the cleanliness for a longer period of time is always a better solution.  Please keep in mind that if the mess can’t be easily cleaned in the 30-40 minute dedicated time slot a housekeeper has daily per room, it’s not going to get cleaned.  A good night’s sleep is better spent counting sheep, not stains or bed bugs!


Even when you’re down, people still look up to you!

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Although I typically write about design-related topics, I was recently reminded about the importance of mentoring & I wanted to share my thoughts on this ever important yet largely ignored topic.  Throughout my career, I have had the privilege of counting on a handful of persons which I call my “guardian angels” or otherwise known as my mentors, and a few weeks ago I was inadvertently thrust from being a mentee, and became a mentor to a young colleague in my industry.

Mentoring is defined as “a personal developmental relationship in which a more experienced or knowledgeable person helps guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person.” (Wikipedia).  This definition can be extracted from ancient mythology, specifically Homer’s “Odyssey”, where Odysseus left his son,Telemachus in the care of an older man named Mentor. As it turns out, Mentor is actually Athena, goddess of wisdom disguised as the old man, who helps guide the young prince during the absence of his father.

As most people can relate, my career started off in a very rocky and uncertain way. The economy was not good, and the design jobs in the mid-90′s were few and far between. After stumbling around for a little over a year working in a very small firm, I was given the opportunity to work at Gensler.  It was a company I had dreamed about working for since my college years, and to finally have the chance to work there seemed almost impossible, but there I was!  Well, once I walked in the door, my initial elation was immediately replaced by terrorizing fear that maybe I wasn’t good enough to be there, surrounded by people who were much more talented than I was. I was sure that at the stroke of noon I would turn back into a pumpkin and be kicked out of there!  After a few days of stumbling around getting my bearings, I was standing in the corner of our weekly staff meeting when I was approached by a fellow co-worker who had the biggest smile I had ever seen, Brian G. Thornton.

He took it upon himself to be my office mentor, giving me tips on how to maneuver my way through the work day and slowly gain confidence in myself as I worked on the various projects. Although we were not in the same studio, I felt that I had someone that I could always go to with my questions, concerns, and self-doubts. He also helped create the mentorship program for the summer interns and encouraged me to join as a mentor, a task I thoroughly enjoyed!  I left Gensler after almost 3 years to pursue a different career path into Hospitality design as well as a new adventure in New York City. Although I was in a different city and a different firm, I still stayed in touch with my mentor and now friend, Brian. We followed each others’ careers over the years with support, encouragement and connections, & I was so happy when I was presented with the opportunity to help him in return. He now runs his own very successful design firm in Las Vegas working for all the major Hospitality brands.

After 13 years going at full speed and reaching incredible heights, I was faced with yet another major change in my career this past year, & felt a bit lost.  I didn’t know what to do, but the one thing I did know was that I could talk to my mentor, so once again I reached out for guidance and help, & Brian, as always, was there to offer it.

In the midst struggling with the ups and downs of figuring out life’s next steps, I had the opportunity to attend a leadership conference last month in San Francisco.  While I was there to get some guidance myself, I was assigned to sit at a table where a young woman was seated, looking lost herself.  We struck up a conversation & throughout the day I offered her some advice on questions she asked me. At the end of the day I told her that if she needed more advice, that she could contact me at any time & I would try to give her guidance as best I could. To my surprise, she did contact me shortly after I got home and thanked me for my words, saying that I had no idea how much they had helped her. That’s when it hit me, a realization that has affected me so profoundly:

Even when you’re down, at your lowest point, people still look up to you.

The magnitude of that responsibility hit me like a ton of bricks. It made me realize the importance of relationships and human interaction in life, but especially in your career. While I certainly don’t have all the answers, & I’m still stumbling trying to figure things out myself, I have the knowledge and the experience to help someone else out on their journey. It was a humbling experience to know that my words & guidance helped someone who is just starting their journey & made me realize how important mentors truly are.

The thing I love about mentoring is that it is truly done from a place of selflessness.  The mentor gets no gain out of doing this other than the satisfaction of watching their protogé achieve their successes one by one. It’s the “pay it forward” mentality of leaving an unwritten or unspoken legacy in the world but knowing what the feeling of true satisfaction actually feels like. It also creates an overwhelming sense of responsibility not only to yourself, but to the industry or the community you belong to.  My alma mater, Virginia Tech has a school motto: “Ut Prosim” which means “That I may serve“. By helping others achieve their dreams, you get to fulfill your own, without even knowing you’re doing it!

“We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.”~ Winston Churchill

Inspirations from Leaders in Hospitality

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San FranciscoLast month I had the opportunity to attend a leadership conference in San Francisco where the movers and shakers of the Hospitality Industry joined forces to inspire and be inspired.  There were many great thoughts, ideas, philosophies, & good advice exchanged over the course of the 2 days, and I wanted to share some of the ones that resonated the loudest with me.

One of the keynote speakers we had was Chip Conley, founder of Joie de Vivre Hotels.

Chip ConleyChip has a unique approach when it comes to defining success by separating a company into 3 interesting identities: The “Farmer”, the “Anthropologist”, & the “Pioneer”.

“To start and grow a business, you have to get down and dirty.”~Paul Hawkins

Chip believes that one of the biggest mistakes most companies make is not paying attention to their own culture, meaning the people who work for them.  Your employees are truly the soil that feeds everything else.  You have to be the Farmer of your business and know what you want the culture of your company to be, guide & cultivate your employees and this will be the foundation for everything, including success.

The next role is the Anthropologist.  In a nutshell, it simply means that you need to understand your customer better than they understand themselves.  By creating innovative needs that the customer doesn’t even know they have, you put yourself at one step ahead of the game.  But first you have to fundamentally know what the core idea of your business is. Once you have a firm idea of what your business truly is about, and you understand your market audience, then your business becomes a mirror of the customer.

The third and final role is that of the Pioneer. It’s not enough to rest on your laurels once you’ve reached a certain level of success, it’s just as important to determine what your company legacy will be.  Ask yourself “Why does it matter to the world that I exist?”. Make sure that you leave the world a better place than how you found it, & that will be the true measure of success.

As Sir Edmund Hillary once said, “It’s not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.”  The final thought we were left with by this inspirational speaker was this:

“Leaders should help transform their employees, their customers, and the industry; But most importantly as a leader, you must transform yourself.”~ Chip Conley

Our next Keynote speaker was Roger Thomas, acclaimed designer best known for his innovative design solutions in Las Vegas working for Steve Wynn.

Roger ThomasRoger talked about “Evochatecture”, a term he coined which means the creation of luxury experiences by combining the familiar with the unfamiliar.  He believes in creating “cinematic” spaces with lots of drama, or as he puts it “memorable spaces for memorable moments.”  He encourages the industry to avoid providing everyone with “Replitecture” or the cookie-cutter approach to design.

By having worked alongside the Wynn family for over 30 years, Roger has learned many great lessons which he has masterfully applied to his incredible designs.  One of those lessons came directly from Steve Wynn himself: “The first rule of Hotel design is don’t think like a designer, think like a guest.”

Roger challenged the conference attendees to not focus on trends, which is so very easy to do and get caught up in.  By the time you finish implementing the latest trends, they’re already irrelevant!  Instead, create from your own inspiration, use your own imagination and life influences, then your design will always be unique and new.

Two charismatic and inspirational speakers gave all of us words to not only think about in the Hospitality industry, but words to live by as well.  Hope you find your inspiration too!

So, the world didn’t end. On to 2013!!!

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As 2012 draws to an end, I have taken this time to collect my thoughts and add some reflections to this past year and share these with everyone (or anyone who would like to read!).  While times have been rough across the board in the design, architecture, and hospitality industries alike, it has also been a year full of hope, opportunities, and great possibilities!

This past year I have personally gone through many evolutions and changes.  Leaving the hustle and bustle of New York City was a difficult yet necessary step in my life, both professionally and personally.  Many days I felt like a Charles Dickens novel, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times….”.  But in the end, after many nights of introspection, and with the invaluable support of friends, family, and many mentors in the industry, I made the monumental decision of launching out on my own and starting my own business.

With over 19 years of experience both in Design and in the Hospitality industry, I felt that my talent and expertise would be best suited to working directly with clients and owners, and the support and encouragement I have received has been overwhelmingly positive! Starting out on your own always has its challenges, but the opportunities and rewards easily make the effort worth fighting for.  “MAD Hospitality Studio” is an apropos name on most days, since there are times I truly feel I was crazy to go this route!  But then I focus on what the “MAD” stands for and I realize that it’s my name, “Michelle Acevedo Designs”, and that is the motivation that makes me push forward and keep working towards success.

“For Success, attitude is equally as important as ability”~ Harry F. Banks. 

Truer words have not been written.  I have learned a valuable lesson in having a positive attitude throughout this year, even when sometimes it seemed I was fighting uphill battles with no end in sight. Staying positive has been the conductor in opening windows and doors into opportunity for me and for that I am grateful. As we look forward to the next year, I am positive it will lead to many great ventures in the days, months, and years to come!

So I leave you with this simple thought:

“Every success is built on the ability to do better than good enough.”~Anonymous

I truly wish each and every one of you a happy, healthy, prosperous and SUCCESSFUL New Year! Happy 2013!

Michelle Acevedo

Merry Christmas & best wishes for the New Year!

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merry_christmas_everybodyI wanted to take a quick moment to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and may 2013 be a year full of possibilities and new adventures for everyone!  Here’s to a prosperous New Year!

Feliz Navidad! Bon Natal! Joyeux Noel! Merry Christmas! Froehliche Weihnachten! Feliz Natal! Mele Kalikimaka!


Michelle Acevedo


Ultrasuede Fabric – To Use or Not to Use?

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Everyone loves to use soft materials in Hospitality projects, it adds a touch of luxury and well, it simply feels good! One widely popular material specified by many designers is a microfiber product known as “Ultrasuede”. Made from the waste of the petroleum industry, this product is used as an artificial substitute for suede leather.

Ultrasuede has been widely used in the fashion industry, the automotive industry, and now the furniture and design industry due to its look and function. Most Ultrasuedes are composed of fibers that include polyester & polyurethane in various proportions. Polyester is a popular fiber used in many commercial-grade upholstery products due to its ability to have high color retension, its high durability, & the added benefit of reducing fabric wrinkling. The polyurethane content adds the benefit of abrasion resistance which eliminates pilling, or “fuzzing” of the fabric. The combination of these two ingredients creates a product that is soft & breathable like cotton which makes it mildew resistant, and is extremely stain resistant, so what could possibly be bad about using this product everywhere in your hotel?

I would first like to state that I don’t dislike Ultrasuede products nor am I saying NOT to use this product in your hotel property.  I just want to point out that there are certain applications where this product may not be the best solution because of the nature of its contents. While you can pour all the liquids you want onto Ultrasuede while you watch in fascination how it just beads & rolls off, there are some substances that this material simply is not resistant to, including some types of ink, oil/grease, & high heat or open flames.


While ball-point pen ink may be easily removed from some Ultrasuede colors, permanent marker, felt-tip-pen, & other types of ink cannot be fully removed from this fabric due to the fact that it is a dyed material. It easily absorbs dyes, which allows the wonderful variety of colors available in the market, but on the same token, it will absorb any permanent color it can take!  This means that using Ultrasuede upholstery in areas of the hotel that are highly prone to the use of permanent markers, such as the meeting/conference areas, is not recommended.  Also in the guestroom area, the desk chair may be prone to “ink accidents” and is also not recommended as an Ultrasuede candidate.

Oil and Grease

Due to the polyester fiber composition derived directly from petroleum, oil and grease are very difficult to remove from Ultrasuede. This material is a magnet to oil and grease, therefore it is not recommended to use material in the spa or pool areas of the hotel where body lotions and oils are widely used.  Another mistake a lot of designers make is using Ultrasuede as a headboard fabric.  With the variety of haircare products that many guests use, your headboards will look very dirty very fast, creating a negative perception of cleanliness in the guestroom.  Also, the luggage benches in the guestrooms. With the grease and oil from the suitcase wheels, you will have a constant stain on your furniture which will affect customer satisfaction. These stains can be removed, but it requires a very specific cleaning procedure of soaking a rag in ethyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) and blotting the stain several times then allowing the stain to dry (never pour the alcohol directly onto the fabric). Using water and detergent on this type of stain will only create permanent water marks on top of the oil stain. Training housekeeping to maintain this product cleaning can be very difficult & oftentimes futile.

High heat or open flame

Because this is a petroleum-derived product, it will melt incredibly fast if exposed to an open flame or high heat. Using this material in areas of the hotel where guests smoke can result in high damage to your furniture. Avoid using this in casinos, bars, & restaurants in properties where cigarettes or ash can fall onto it.  Also avoid using anywhere that a guest can place a hot flat iron, curling iron, or plain iron on top of it or near it, such as in the guest room. This material will melt quickly and the edges will become hard and “plastic-y”.

Aside from these “caveats”, Ultrasuede can be successfully used throughout the hotel property and can add a luxurious and colorful touch to your design as well as great durability through guest wear and tear. The trick is to use it wisely!!

Global Hospitality

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“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.”~ Robert Louis Stevenson

Many people travel to foreign countries with the intent of learning and immersing themselves into different cultures, yet they still expect the host country to cater to and understand their own needs. When a Hotel brand chooses to open a property in a foreign country, this requires a bit more adaptation than just bringing in “your project” into “their country”.  It becomes vitally important to take a moment and start by learning about the culture and country where you intend to introduce your brand.  Simply speaking the language may not be enough.  What works in the U.S. may not necessarily work abroad, different customs, practices, and expectations are present in every country, and failure to understand and adapt to these differences can be what separates success from failure.

Perception of quality

One of the most important considerations to keep in mind is the perception of quality.  Quality can have many different parameters and understanding the nuances from country to country is imperative. This translates into being aware of the needs and expectations of the consumer market in that country and adapting the design product and services to meet these. For example, understanding how a culture regards personal space can be a key element in designing a hotel.  In some areas of the world, such as in the Mediterranean, people have less of an issue of being close to one another, whereas in other cultures, such as Japan, physical contact with other people is considered rude behavior.  This can impact how a hotel plans the reception lobby in terms of how densely or sparsely you furnish the area.  If you don’t understand the local culture, you could create a very negative impression on your guests from the moment they enter your property and this will skew their perception of the quality of service your hotel has to offer.  Remember, you never have a second chance to make a first impression!

Symbolism & Superstitions play a big role

Be aware of local superstitions, as this can have a greater impact on repeat business than you think.  While most western cultures avoid having a “13th floor” in their hotels, in Asia, the 4th floor is considered bad luck, while in Italy, the number 17 is essentially a portent of death.  Colors also have a significant role when it comes to cultural symbolism.  The Asian countries consider the color red to be a symbol of luck and prosperity, while in South Africa, it is considered a color for mourning and death.  While the Middle East considers green to be a lucky color, it is strictly forbidden to use green in Indonesia. You have to understand these differences to avoid creating a space that may have a negative impact in the country your are entering into. This becomes more than form or function, you really need to understand the history of the culture in order to cater to it.

How much color is too much?

One of the biggest mistakes a lot of brands make is thinking that they can just take the American version of their brand & insert it into another country and it will have the same success as in the U.S.  You have to be aware of the design, architecture, and art of the market you are entering to understand your design parameters and expectations.  For example, designing a mostly beige lobby with tonal accents in a Caribbean or Latin American market will most likely generate negative feedback from the guests.  These cultures are accustomed to brightly colored walls, vivid artwork, and loud and lively spaces with lots of lighting, whereas in London it might be seen as shocking and jarring. Hotel brands have to think outside the box if they want to be successful in other areas of the world.

In conclusion, hoteliers and hotel brands need to look at overseas prospects as more than just a business proposal viewpoint.  Taking the time to learn about the culture and the country will not only facilitate the project, but it will ensure a successful and profitable business investment for years to come!

Ho-Ho-Holiday traveling – Keeping it Green!

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

According to AAA, this year it is estimated that 40% of Americans will be traveling during the December Holiday period. While thinking about what gifts will be given may be on the minds of most people, we should also try to keep in mind what we leave behind during our travels.  In the environmental world, this is called “carbon footprint“, or environmental pollution.  While these actions may seem insignificant, if everyone does their part, it will help preserve energy and the enviroment.

Here are some tips to help keep the holidays a bit more “green”:

  1. Turn off and disconnect all appliances. Items such as the coffee-maker, the hair dryer, the curling iron will continue to use electricity if they’re plugged in, even in the off position. Remember to turn off the TV and the lights before leaving the room as well. This cuts back on the electric usage significantly.
  2. Forgo the bath and take a quick shower instead! Taking a shower uses a lot less water than soaking in a tub.  Plus, with the new high-powered shower heads found in many hotels, you get the added bonus of a water massage !
  3. Reuse your towels and bedsheets as much as possible.  Most hotels offer the option that leaving towels on the floor means you require fresh towels, but to hang them up means you will reuse them. The Alliance for Water Efficiency estimates that a 250-room hotel can save up to $66K and 220,000 gallons of water a year if guests choose to reuse their towels during their stay.
  4. Bring your own toiletries, such as shampoos, conditioners, and body lotions as much as possible. First of all, these will be better for you than the products placed in the bathroom.  Secondly, it will reduce costs of having to replace these tiny little plastic containers on a daily basis. Some hotels have started using wall-mounted dispensers for these products such as liquid soaps, hair products, and lotions that can be used multiple times and reduce container waste.  While the products may seem like great souvenirs, the memories of the great holiday will last much longer!
  5. And finally, recycle as much as possible! First, find out if your hotel has a recycling program.  Most properties are starting to place containers and bins throughout the hotel, including in lobbies and in the ice-vending areas on each floor.  Some properties will even place a small recycling bin in the room.  Don’t send something to a landfill if it can be recycled into something useful again.

So there you have some tips to keep the Holiday spirit and be green at the same time!  Wishing you all a very Happy Holiday and best wishes for 2013!


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Well, such is the fate of a website just the same!  I am finally getting the blog section up and running where I’ll be able to post articles, recommendations, and thoughts about Interior Design and how it connects to the world, particularly the Hospitality industry.  I hope you enjoy this section and please check back frequently since I love to chat so I will be posting on a regular basis! Comments and questions are most welcome as well, so please, don’t be shy.

I look forward to sharing my knowledge and experience with anyone willing to listen!